The Upchurch peninsula sticks up from the North Kent coast into the wide tidal basin of the Medway Estuary.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
This is one of those outposts, remote and full of character, yet amazingly close to London, that one stumbles upon with a thrill of discovery – especially at this time of year when the apple orchards are in full blossom.
Under the 700-year-old roof of St Mary’s Church at Newington the damned bared their teeth in the agonies of Hell while angelic trumpet blasts summoned the righteous from their coffins – the vivid events of Judgement Day depicted by a medieval fresco painter, as admonitory as a slap on the backside. From the candy-striped flint and ragstone tower of St Mary’s we followed a path north over the green upland of Broom Down to Lower Halstow, neatly tucked along its creek beside the great marsh and mud expanse of the Medway estuary.
Black-headed gulls screeched around a brace of beautifully restored Thames barges moored at Halstow Quay. On the seaward horizon the big blue cranes on the Isle of Grain dipped with majestic slowness like giraffes stooping to graze. A wind scented with salt and mud blew stiffly inland to rustle a million pink and white apple blossoms in the orchards around Ham Green.
Up the seaward edge of the peninsula we went, past the old coasting craft-turned-houseboats lying belly down in Twinney Creek, a curl of smoke rising from a home-made tin chimney. Then inland past the orchards around Frog Farm, the tiny shoulder-high apple trees frothing with blossom and already beginning to hum with hoverflies and early bees. The tremulous, bubbling cries of a curlew came from the saltmarshes behind us as we followed the narrow lanes through Ham Green and on by the fishing lakes.
As we passed through Upchurch, the village cricket team in well-washed whites was walking out onto Hollywell Meadow. In Chaffes Lane a bunch of lads puzzled over the oily innards of an old scooter. A flat-capped man who must have seen off at least eighty winters gave us a wink as he shuffled into the side door of the Crown Inn, and in St Mary’s Church an effigy of the Green Man spewed a mouthful of flowers like a promise of spring.
Start & finish: Newington Station, Newington, Kent ME9 7LQ (OS ref TQ 859650)
Getting there: Train (www.thetrainline.com; www.railcard.co.uk) to Newington. Road: M25 (Jct 2), M2 (Jct 5); A249 towards Sittingbourne; A2 towards London for 1½ miles. Park near Newington station.
Walk (7 miles, easy, OS Explorer 148): Down Station Road; in 20m, opposite No 41, left along alleyway; left along Church Lane. Under railway; on to crossroads (861653) with Church of St Mary the Virgin to right. From crossroads, ahead (‘Lower Halstow’) down Wardwell Lane. In 200m on right bend, left (861655; footpath fingerpost); on through valley by footbridges and stiles. At foot of slope (860660), bear left up slope, aiming left of pylon; cross left-hand of two stiles. Follow path under power lines, over Broom Downs to road at Lower Halstow (859669). Left; immediately right along path with stream on left; in 300m, left across footbridge; right at end of alley to T-junction (859672), with Three Tuns PH and St Margaret’s Church to right.
Across junction by pub; pass ‘Private – No Parking’ sign, then ‘Moorings’ house to reach Halstow Wharf. Continue along Saxon Shore Way/ SShW past Halstow and Twinney Creeks for 1½ miles to Shoregate Lane (850691). Inland (SShW) for ¼ mile to Ham Green Farm (847688). Right along road; in 20 m, left (SShW) on track through orchards, past riding stables (SShW) to road (844683). Left (SShW); in 250m, right (SShW) across field; through kissing gate (843679) with lake on right. SShW bears right here, but turn left (‘public footpath’ arrow) along hedge; cross paddocks into housing estate at Upchurch. Left to T-junction; right up The Street, past The Crown PH and St Mary’s Church (844675).
Opposite Post Office, left down Chaffes Lane. In 200m, left opposite Bradshaws Close (844672). Take right-hand of two footpaths (stile, ‘footpath’ fingerpost), across paddocks by kissing gates for ⅓ mile. At far side of paddocks, right over stile (846667); bear left around paddock. On far side, left over a stile (847666, yellow arrow) down path to road (848665). Right to crossroads with Breach Lane (851663). Through a kissing gate opposite; aim for pylon, then keep same line over fields and through an orchard to its top right corner (853658). Left over stile, across field, then between paddocks to cross road (854655). Continue same line across large field; under railway (856650); ahead to A2 in Newington; left to Station Road; left to station.
One of 25 walks in Walks In The Country Near London (new edition) by Christopher Somerville, just published by New Holland.
Lunch: Three Tuns, Lower Halstow (01795-842840)
Church keyholders (NB Please contact several days in advance of your walk in order to avoid disappointment): St Mary’s Church, Newington – Rev Liz Cox (01795-844241; email@example.com); St Margaret’s Church, Lower Halstow, and St Mary’s Church, Upchurch – Rev Jacky Davies (01795-842557; firstname.lastname@example.org)
More info: Sittingbourne TIC (01795-417478); www.visitkent.co.uk
Readers’ Walks: Come and enjoy a country walk with our experts! Dates, info etc.: http://www.mytimesplus.co.uk/travel/uk/1867/times-walks. Next walk: Lake District, 8 April